During a presentation for the Mini Medical School Program, a lecture series the College of Community Health Sciences provides in collaboration with UA’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Dr. Ed Geno spoke about the identification and treatment of celiac disease.
“What I’m going to do is take you on a journey of gluten through the body,” said Geno.
Throughout the lecture, Geno described the various actions and reactions the human body goes through if a person has celiac disease or is gluten intolerant. The symptoms of celiac disease are common and can often be interpreted as other diseases, making it difficult to diagnose. Symptoms include: malabsorption, diarrhea, bloating, and vitamin deficiency.
“You tend to see this disease in families,” said Geno. “It can occur in kids, and it can occur later in life as well.”
Because celiac disease can affect a wide-range of people and shows symptoms common to other diseases, it can be difficult to diagnose. If a parent, sibling or child has celiac disease, it is wise to get screened.
About 1 percent of the North American population has celiac disease and most people who suffer from gluten intolerance are not born with the disease, rather they develop it over time. Once developed, the only treatment is to maintain a gluten-free diet. Symptoms of celiac disease may resolve while being gluten-free, but the disease is lifelong.
Being gluten-free requires cutting any foods that contain wheat, rye, barley and malt. This includes bread, pastas, beer, and even some over-the-counter medications.
While many people can see health benefits of going gluten-free, it is very important to replace the nutrients lost by avoiding wheat in your diet. There are alternative sources for carbohydrates, fiber, iron, and folic acid that are gluten-free. Many of these sources are alternative grain products (such as rice, corn, or potato based products), green leafy vegetables, and meat, fish, and poultry.